A summer recap from Alex’s Place

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To the Editor:

All of us at Alex’s Place, the Island’s premier space for teens and the community, wish to offer our gratitude to the folks who took advantage of the many programs and events we held over the summer months.

These included community concerts as part of the YMCA Summer Concert Series. Once again, Alex’s Place opened the show with two awesome teen performances that showcased some of the top performers from around the world.  

Over the course of the series, performers included soul diva Dana Williams, local songwriter Nate D’Angelo, who has honed his craft at Alex’s Place for four years, and a sold-out wrap-up benefit from the amazingly funny standup comic and island native, Charlie Nadler and Friends.

Each show represented a bridge between teens and the community, with an audience age range from 13 to 80 in attendance. All these shows provide some level of financial support for our off-season programs for teens and the community.

Community Open Stage was full of surprises from all over the place, and provided eclectic unscripted opportunities for everyone to perform if they so chose. In addition, under the curation of Alex’s Place assistant director Laurel Redington, Alex’s Place collaborated with the Aquinnah library for a fabulous multiweek concert series highlighting local and off-Island teens in performance.

Teens interested in all facets of the music business participated in the weeklong Adrenaline Music project with a variety of mentors. It ended with a showcase of the “Adrenalites” in performance at the weekly Open Stage.

There was so much more. WIMP offered two weeklong intensive workshops on improvisational comedy for kids, with teen mentors; and Camp Terra Mare held its annual camp talent show. There was a book signing with author Dee Marshall. And of course Alex’s Place was the go-to after-beach option for teens to drop in and cool off with a great snack and a chance to reconnect with friends. Studio 57 was busy during all of this, recording teens from as far away as Ohio.

For adults, a new program in collaboration with the Y and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital offered the popular Breastfeeding Cafe each week for new mothers in a private, comfortable setting.

The list of events could go on, but the bottom line is that the bridge we hoped would be built in our little space between Alex’s Place and the community was made a reality due to the support of many Islanders who desired an alternative entertainment option that welcomed folks of all ages into a safe, alcohol-free environment

We hope people have come to understand our desire to avoid a space where teens exist in a vacuum. By providing an open door to the community in which our teens live, we hope they will recognize its uniqueness and importance, and will want to stay and be a part of it. In order to keep our community strong, it is vital for our young people to spend time with energetic community leaders, having conversations and enlightening each other.

A  Y program should reflect the community which it serves, and that idea, along with the legacy of Alexandra Gagnon, were the impetus behind many of our decisions this summer. We are grateful to musician Phil DaRosa for the opening volley of events that brought so many cornerstones of our creative community together, including but hardly limited to Jemima James, Alex Karalekas, and so many more. Brian Weiland introduced a special all-Celtic night that brought incredible Irish music to our stage.

Gratitude first and foremost to Jacques and Marfi Gagnon for their vision  and ongoing support in memory of their daughter, Alex, whose spirit is very much present, and to the many donors who supported the Y Annual Campaign in the name of Alex’s Place.

Finally, none of this would have been reality were it not for Team Alex, a small but committed group of folks who set up the spaces, prepared the goodies, and welcomed the people. Thank you to Laurel Redington for her foresight and vision and just plain kindness. And thanks to the rest of the team: Ryan Schwab Doyon, Tara Nitardy, and Ginny Kess, all of whom went well beyond the call of duty to bring the mission to life in many creative ways. I am humbled by their commitment and loyalty to the cause. Thank to Jill Robie Axtell, who sees the vision we have in mind, and thanks to the entire administrative team for their support and encouragement, and of course to Matt Ferro and his team for helping us keep it all together.

Thank you, Martha’s Vineyard, for entrusting this beautiful space to our care. We will work hard to continue to live up to the commitment we made in those early days to those who opened the doors to this vision. Special thanks to our friend Rebecca Fracassa and all those at Comcast who also embrace our dream of providing opportunity, and leveling the playing field for our kids as they venture into the world.

We will now prepare for the off-season with new and exciting collaborations, programs, and events which you will find at our website, alexsplace.net. With deepest gratitude to our awesome Island Community,

Tony Lombardi, teen program director

The YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard